Constructed Authorship in Television and the Case of ‘Game of Thrones’
By Tobias Steiner
Published Online (2012)
Introduction: Castles, swords and chain mail, machinations and counter-schemes, the occasional dragon and even a newly-invented language – for many people this reads like Dungeons & Dragons-esque fantasy in the tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien. George R. R. Martin not only shares the middle initials with the creator of Lord of the Rings, but, with A Song of Ice and Fire, has created a series of novels that received enthusiastic acclaim from international critics and readers, established him as renowned fantasy author and won him the unofficial title of “American Tolkien”. In 2007, Martin agreed to collaborate with cable network HBO’s writer-producers David Benioff and Daniel B. Weiss to form a show runner-troika overseeing the adaptation of Martin’s epic novel series to TV under the name of Game of Thrones (GoT ). Its master narrative features the medieval fantasy world of Westeros, in which five families strive to seize the all-governing Iron Throne, and, with a complete broadcast of the first season, and season two in the process of unfolding its narrative anew (it began airing in April 2012), the result has led TV critics to hail the show as one of the pinnacles of quality television storytelling.
This essay will examine how the construction of authorship as an indicator of quality plays a crucial role in the success of GoT. I will relate the authorial concept of literary studies to that in the visual media and then analyse mise en scène and narrative structure of the GoT pilot in order to detect markers of an authorial voice within the text. Subsequently, I turn to a selection of paratexts – critical reviews, producers’ commentaries and special features of the show’s DVD box set – to show how the team of Benioff, Weiss and Martin help manufacture and promote the presence of a showrunner-auteur collective in order to help foster a perception of this text as a quality television narrative.